As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, my plan was to have a natural childbirth. We attended childbirth classes to learn the Bradley method of natural childbirth. Before birth I was fascinated by other people’s natural childbirth stories, especially because it gave me an idea of what to expect. Judging from the amount of people who have asked to hear Hudson’s birth story, it seems like many of you like to read them, too. Like I mentioned, I’m going to go into some detail. Nothing too graphic, but there are things I’d have liked to know ahead of time so I want to include those as well.
One other thing, my labor was atypical. There were several strange things that happened that I think don’t happen normally, so please don’t let my experience scare you away!
It starts with my water breaking in the middle of school and ends a long, 32 hours later. Thirty-two hours of labor makes for one long blog post, so grab a snack…this is going to take a while.
*warning: some personal, semi-graphic details ahead. If you are male, related to me, or otherwise think you might never be able to look at me the same, now may be a good time to stop reading…I’ll go ahead and tell you the punch line – Hudson was born after 32 hours of labor*
You know how it’s always really dramatic when someone’s water breaks in a movie, but you never hear about things like that in real life? Well, here’s a real life example for you…
Wednesday, January 22 started out as any other day. I was 38 weeks and 6 days along, and not at all expecting to go into labor. I had only been dilated 1 cm at my last appointment, and I hadn’t felt any contractions (that I could tell). I felt just a little crampy that morning, like mild period cramps. I’d heard before that some people felt crampy before they started labor so I took tiny note of it, but figured it meant nothing. I also had a few of what I assumed might be Braxton Hicks contractions, just very mild tightening of my belly. Not uncomfortable and hardly noticable.
At 11:30 I was in the library teaching my 5th graders. On this particular day, “teaching” them meant they were sitting in the library classroom listening to/watching an e-book. I was sitting in the back of the classroom in a chair with the kids in the last row.
As I was sitting there, I felt a little bubble of liquid. I assumed it was a little pee escaping as, unfortunately, sometimes randomly happens during pregnancy. However, that little bubble of “pee” quickly picked up speed and went running down my legs. I sat there in shock as it just kept running and running. Then I finally picked up my phone and texted our school nurse and said “Come fast my water just broke I think”. Next I texted both Michael and our doula to tell them that I thought my water had broken.
As I was sitting there waiting for Ashley (our nurse) to come help me and hoping that the kids wouldn’t notice anything amiss, I felt two more big gushes of water. A minute or so later Ashley comes into the library and I heard her call my name. She didn’t know we were in the classroom and she called my name again. I finally called out to her so she would know where to find me. Of course that made the kids all turn and look so I just tried to wave them off and get them to turn back to their book.
I told Ashley that I thought my water had broken and that I was sitting in it and didn’t know what to do. Obviously there really wasn’t anything she could do, I just needed some moral support I guess. I sent her to get our guidance counselor because I knew I needed someone to watch my class. Then I got up and grabbed the chair I’d been sitting in and backed out of the classroom, dragging the chair with me.
When I say my water gushed, I mean there was a puddle on the floor and my shoes were filled and sloshed when I walked. As one of the 5th graders described it to her teacher later, “her water broke and it was like she pee-pee’d in the floor!” (so much for them not noticing, huh?). Gross, I know.
From the time my water broke until I left school, the timeline is a little bit of a blur because I was so shocked. I remember sloshing around in my wet shoes logging off the computers, packing up my lunch and my belongings, locking my office, and talking to a few teachers who came by after hearing the news. I felt like a bit of a spectacle! I called Michael because he hadn’t answered my text. He didn’t answer my call so I called his work phone and told him that my water had broken and I would meet him at home. He said he knew when he saw my number on his work phone that it was go time…I never call his work number unless it’s an emergency.
Everyone around me was freaking out that I needed to go to the hospital or that I shouldn’t drive myself home, but I was pretty much calm. I just felt like I still had plenty of time (boy did I ever…) I did have Ashley pull my van around front so I wouldn’t have to walk so far, and someone else helped me carry my belongings to the car.
When I got to the car, I was SO thankful for the “in case I go into labor and I’m not at home” bag that I had put in the car a few weeks ago. I bought some of those puppy pee pads and stuck them in my labor bag – I laid one in my seat and another on the floorboard under my feet. I’m so glad I was able to protect my leather seats! I hopped in the car and off I went!
I called my mom on the way home to tell her what happened, and then called Michael to give him more details. On the way home I finally figured out that I was having contractions. I only knew because I would notice a new gush of water after a tiny belly tightening…so I figured that the belly tightening was a contraction. Again, very thankful for the pee pads that caught the water (I had at least two, if not more contractions on the way home).
When I got home Michael came out to the garage to help me in. Thus started the “Michael cleans up way more of my bodily fluids than he ever expected before age 80” theme of the next 30ish hours. He helped me to the bathroom so I could shower off and while I was showering he cleaned up the trail of amniotic fluid that was following me around as well as dumping out my fluid-filled shoes and washing them off for me. What a champ.
After I showered, I changed into some dry clothes and another favorite weird-but-necessary labor purchase: Depends. I’d actually bought them for after delivery to help with bleeding, but I ended up using a bunch of them during labor because after your water breaks it just keeps on coming, and all evening long I kept a pretty steady flow. Having the Depends to catch them was great – I could just throw them away when I got wet and not have it running all down my legs.
Seriously, if you’re pregnant, just go ahead and buy some puppy pee pads and Depends. Use the self check out if you’re embarrased, but just do it.
At this point, I was not in any pain and I totally planned to ride out the next few hours at home until labor got hard enough for me to go to the hospital. However, since my water had broken we knew we needed to call the doctor. They said I should come on in to the hospital to get checked, so we went ahead and packed up all the bags (don’t worry, my “what to take to the hospital” list will be coming up in a later post…) just in case they kept us. To the hospital we go!
When we got to the hospital around 1:30 they put us in a room and a nurse came in. She asked me a million questions (most which we had already filled out in our pre-registration paperwork but had to go through and answer again…so what was the point of pre-registering?). She hooked me up to the monitor (just two strips that velcro around your belly – one to monitor your contractions, the other to monitor baby’s heart rate). She also had to check the fluid to make sure it was amniotic fluid. It was non-invasive procedure, just touch a litmus-type strip to my leg, but I declined the cervical check she wanted to do.
I told her a few times that we’d really like to talk to our doctor because I wanted to go home until labor really picked up, so they paged my doctor and we waited for him to get there. When he got there he really wanted to do a cervical check to make sure the umbilical cord hadn’t fallen down in front of my cervix and so we did. I was only dilated to 2cm. He had us do an ultrasound to make sure Hudson was turned head-down. The ultrasound tech guy was so sweet. He printed off probably 15 ultrasound pictures for us. I kept thinking “I’m going to be meeting my baby today so I don’t really need the pictures!” but I figured he usually has to do boring ultrasounds instead of babies so he was excited. Everything checked out, so they let us go home with the orders to come back at 9pm to get monitored again, and then again at 6am. If nothing had happened by 6am, he said they would start me on an antibiotic so that I wouldn’t get an infection from my water being broken for so long.
We left the hospital around 3:00. I called my chiropractor from the hospital and cancelled my 3:30 appointment. Although, in hindsight I think I should have kept it…I could have used a last minute adjustment!
On the way home we stopped and ran some errands. I wanted to make a batch of lactation cookies to take with us, but I was out of brown sugar so we stopped at Kroger for sugar. I had a package to mail to the Gaineses so we dropped that off at the post office, and then we took some returns to Babies R Us. It was funny at Babies R Us because the lady behind us was wearing a mask over her mouth. She must have thought that worried me because she said “It must be coming up soon! Don’t worry, I’m not sick, I’ve had chemo so I have to wear this mask to keep the germs away from me, but I’m not contagious”. I just smiled and said I wasn’t concerned but inside was thinking, if only she knew I was actually laboring away right in front of her.
When we got home I went to work making my lactation cookies, running a load of laundry to wash my amniotic fluid soaked clothes, and taking pictures of Hudson’s nursery. I had just finished the last part of the nursery (the lamp) the night before and I really wanted to get that post done. I already had most of the writing done, I just needed to add in the pictures. I also washed some dishes and tidied up a little bit. While I puttered around, Michael paid some bills and got some of his things done. I also found out that my friend who was planning to come be my doula couldn’t make it due to the weather conditions where she lives. So Michael and I were on our own! (He was a fantastic birth coach, by the way)
Not that you can plan these things, but I’d hoped that I’d go into labor, be able to labor at home privately, then go to the hospital and *surprise!* baby is here! I just didn’t really want everyone in the world to know and be waiting for news. Well…when your water breaks at school and news travels fast, that kind of shoots a hole in those plans.
Several people from school were commenting on my Facebook page and of course everyone could see that and started asking questions. So I went ahead and just posted an update on Facebook letting everyone know what was going on and asking for prayers. I figured it was better to get accurate information out there than have everyone sitting around speculating. So much for laboring quietly though…
Once I had all my little housekeeping chores done, I got down to business trying to get labor started. I really didn’t want to be induced and knew that if my labor didn’t progress fast enough that my doctor would start pushing for an induction. So I started sucking on Dum -Dums (there is a pressure point on the top of your mouth that can help start labor…using a sucker is a good way to press it), walking circles around our house (it was way too cold to go outside), having Michael massage another pressure point on my ankle, using my breast pump, and using essential oils that were recommended to help speed up labor.
Around 7:00 pm I finally started feeling some actual contractions. They weren’t hard yet and I couldn’t tell a clear start or stop time, but at least I could tell I was having them. I walked around in circles in mild labor until time to go back to the hospital at 9:00pm.
At the hospital they put us in another room and put the monitoring bands on me. By that point I was actually having to focus and relax during contractions. They weren’t horrible, but they required my focus. The nurse ran the monitor for a while and said everything looked fine and we could go home. We were starving for supper, so we ordered a pizza to pick up on the way. We got to Domino’s and Michael went in to get our pizza. As he was in the restaurant, I got a call from the hospital – it was the nurse saying that some of the other nurses had looked at Hudson’s heart rate strip and were a little concerned. They wanted me to turn around and come back. So back we went.
We each ate a slice of pizza in the car and then threw the pizza away in the trash on our way back in. What a bummer to throw away a fresh, hot pizza…but didn’t want to stink up the car if we were there for a while! We went back to labor and delivery for the third time that day, they strapped on the fetal monitor, and I laid there for a good long time while they monitored us. They did another cervical check and I was 4 to 5 cm dilated. My contractions were intense and painful and required lots of focus and relaxation. Most of the time the nurses would wait until the contraction was over to ask questions or do anything, but this one nurse just chattered away at me during one until finally I said “shhhh shhh shhhh” really loud at her. I felt rude, but I really needed the quiet. I was very shaky while we were there; my whole body shook uncontrollably like I was cold. The nurse called them labor shakes but I thought maybe they were the beginning of transition.
Everything checked out fine and they let us go home, with the plan that if nothing had happened by 6am I had to come back to the hospital no matter what. We left the hospital around midnight.
When we got home we both got ready to bed hoping I might be able to sleep through the contractions (yeah, right) and Michael sat his alarm for 5:00 for us to get up and go to the hospital. No sooner had we turned the covers back and Michael climbed into bed did the contractions hit hard.
Transition is the part of labor that is the most intense, where most people want to give up. It doesn’t usually last long and if you can make it through that then you’re good to go. I think that this was my transition, with the exception that usually transition signals that you are close to the end and I definitely was not close to the end so I really don’t know. I still had many hours to go.
But during this time, which was about twenty minutes long, I showed many signs of transition. My contractions were long and very close together. I knelt on the bed draped over my birth ball and rocked side to side. At one point I got really nauseated and told Michael I was going to throw up but I never did. He says I also kept saying “Make it stop”. I was so focused that I didn’t even realize he had gotten the car ready for us to go to the hospital. Another traditional transition-thing is the loss of modesty. I fit this as well; when it was finally time to get dressed to go to the hospital, I just slipped a dress over my head and put my coat and shoes on – no bra, no leggings. My dress wasn’t that short, but somehow I must not have pulled it down far enough because it was as short as my coat and I walked into the hospital like that in the freezing weather and didn’t even notice or care.
Fun fact for my own memories…on the way to the hospital the check engine light came on the van. Michael didn’t tell me until later, of course, but I know he was sweating it the whole way there!
We got to the hospital right at 2:00am. The nurses checked me and I was dilated to 6 or 7 cm. They inserted my hep-loc and just left us be to labor away. From 2:00am until 11:00am I labored, trying to relax through my contrations. When we got there at 2:00, Michael and I both thought that we’d have a baby in our arms by 6 or 7 am, since things had moved so fast previously. That was unfortunately not to be. At 5:00ish am I had to get an antibiotic since my water had been broken for over 18 hours.
Honestly, the contractions themselves weren’t too bad. They were intense but not painful. What was painful, however, was this horrible hip pain that I had. It was right in my hip flexor area and it was so incredibly painful. It was hard to relax during the contractions because of that. I had Michael applying pressure with a tennis ball on my back to try to counteract the hip pain and it helped some, but not enough. I think if it weren’t for the hip pain, labor would have been much, much easier. I don’t know if Hudson was turned weird and hung on my hip, or if he was pressing on a nerve, but something in there was messed up. I prayed and prayed for a release from the pain.
At 8:00 am Michael encouraged me to try rocking my hips to help with the hip pain. I knelt on all fours on the bed and swayed from side to side, then stood up and leaned on Michael and swayed. Finally, finally the hip pain subsided, so that must have shifted whatever it was causing the pain. I just wish I had known to do that hours earlier!
Michael was such a trooper. He wiped amniotic fluid off my legs countless times when I would change positions and it would come leaking out. Having a full bladder makes contractions even worse but it hurt too bad to sit on the toilet to pee. He laid down a pee pad on the floor and helped me hover to pee on the floor. He dealt with more bodily fluids than he ever expected to this side of eighty years old.
At 11:00 I had finally dilated to 1o cm and was given the go ahead to push when I felt like it. It actually felt good to push through the contractions – like I was doing something productive. I alternated between squatting on the end of the bed using a squat bar and leaning back on the bed and lifting my legs into the “classic” squat position but putting my feet on the squat bar and pushing against it. However, my contractions just didn’t seem to be doing anything. They were pretty far apart and the pushing wasn’t that intense. We were even able to take little cat naps between contractions. I labored like that for hours with no progress. My doctor started getting concerned and really wanted to give me Pitocin but I kept trying to hold him off, thinking things would progress on their own. After a while I did allow them to send some saline and glucose water through my IV to try to help if dehydration was the problem. Apparently that wasn’t it because the extra IV didn’t do anything.
Oh and for those of you who are afraid you’ll poop on the delivery room table…yeah, well, you probably will so get over it. And it may not just be at the end. I mean, hopefully you won’t push for nearly 8 hours like I did, but if you push for a while, you will probably push some poop out too. And pee on yourself. Because that pushing you do to get baby out is the same method that eliminates waste. And the nurses aren’t in the room with you all the time so your champion husband may have to help clean you up after pushes. I’m just sayin’.
Let me tell you, I have no dignity left after childbirth. It is gross and messy and primal and at the time you just don’t care.
Anyway, my doctor was getting really worried after I’d been in labor so long. He was afraid that if we waited any longer, Hudson’s head would swell and not be able to get out of my birth canal and we’d have to do a C-section. Michael was worried that I’d be too exhausted to push him out when the time came, so he was encouraging me to get a little help. Finally, at 5:30pm I consented to a little Pitocin to try to kick things into gear.
We started small, just 2 ml per hour. Every twenty minutes they bumped it up – 4 ml per hour, then 6 ml, and then 8 ml. I’m not sure that the bump up to 8 ml was necessary. My contractions were intense and hurt and I really had to bear down when I pushed. I think my doctor, once he got the go ahead with the Pitcoin, wanted Hudson out of there as soon as possible. He sent the nurse in for one more bump up to 10 ml per hour. That was really the only thing I had a problem with in my labor is how much Pitocin they shot through me in such a short amount of time. That stuff is strong!
My contractions were coming less than a minute apart and I pushed like there was no tomorrow. The nurses came in and started getting things ready. They turned me on my side and had me put one leg up in the stirrup to push for a little bit rather than on my back in the classic pushing position. At this point, Hudson was still turned sideways or face up, and they really wanted to get him turned face down for delivery. That position must have worked because within a few pushes I felt a strange pressure then release and they said he had turned.
After that things moved very fast. They turned me back over and my doctor came in – he said I was just a few good pushes away. He said he was going to help me out some so he put his fingers in and kind of held me open (I’m sorry, I know that’s way too much information, but I wish I had known some of these things). I assume to kind of stretch things out so I didn’t tear. It hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before and for the first time I started screaming. I screamed bloody murder, just like you see on tv, all through that contraction and kept yelling for my doctor to stop. After that contraction my doctor tried to calm me down and told me that he didn’t mind my yelling but that he really needed me to direct my breath into my pushing instead of using it to yell. The next few contractions (I really don’t know how many, maybe three or four?) I held my breath and pushed instead of screaming. It was so very hard. The pain was indescribable. My doctor was yelling “good, good, good” and Michael was counting in my right ear and the nurse was saying other nonsense in my left year. It was chaotic.
During one contraction I remember my doctor said, “He has a lot of hair” and I yelled “He better, as much heartburn as I’ve had!”.
At 7:55, Hudson Michael was born. When he finally came out I felt his head emerge and then the rest of his body just kind of slid out. I didn’t have to push any after his head popped out. I had kept my eyes closed during most of the last bit of labor because I was so focused and overwhelmed so it took me a second to realize he was here and I needed to open my eyes. The doctor held Hudson up so I could see him and he was all purple-y and bloody and gross and perfect. He was absolutely the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.
My doctor clamped the cord and Michael cut it. They laid Hudson on my chest and the pain was worth it. I promise. People say that you forget the pain; I’m going to have to say nope. Not anytime soon. Not after 32 long hours. However, the pain is totally worth it when you hear that first cry and see your baby. He came out crying but as soon as they laid him on my chest, he stopped. Like he knew I was his mommy and that everything was okay now that I was holding him. It was the most amazing experience of my life.
In our birthing class we watched some videos of natural childbirth. I was so intrigued by the fact that these women were nearly silent during the pushing (not screaming like on tv, or like I did during that one contraction), but as soon as their babies were born they babbled nonsense like they were on drugs. I thought they seemed so ridiculous.
Well, add me to the list of ridiculous people (fortunately I’m not caught on tape) because I did the same thing as soon as Hudson was born. I kept saying “That’s my baby, that’s my baby!” over and over again and then just said all kinds of silly things as they laid him on my chest.
My doctor pushed on my stomach and stuff to help me deliver the placenta (it kind of just came sliding out, it didn’t hurt like I thought it might). I had one interior tear; I don’t know how large or what degree or anything. He stitched me up and of course, since I didn’t have an epidural I could feel it. I think he used some numbing stuff but I could still feel them. But honestly, all the stuff that happened after was a blur because I was so focused on Hudson.
They let us lay there for a while and then they took Hudson across the room to be weighed and measured. Michael got to go with him and take pictures. They wiped him off with a towel and then brought him back to me so we could do skin-to-skin for a little while. They administered his Vitamin K shot and his eye goop while he was laying there on me. He did so good and didn’t even cry. Michael got some cookies out of our snack bag and I ate several (this was the first I’d eaten since 10pm the night before, except for one tiny granola bar that I snuck during labor while the nurses were out of the room).
After a while they took him to get his bath and took me to our post-partum room. Michael got to carry him to the nursery to get his bath and then stand behind the glass with our parents and watch.
The nurses wheeled me to our room, helped me clean up, and showed me how to take care of my stitches. I still had my IV in, so I couldn’t really change clothes but they did put me in a clean gown. They had to go over some care procedures about pain medicine, my IV, how they would come check my stomach, etc. I got in the bed and waited for my boys to get back. I was so shaky and nauseated and felt absolutely awful. No wonder, after 32 hours of labor! I texted Gina and she said to drink some orange juice. Duh! That’s a Bradley thing that we learned in class. I never really understood why everyone drank oj after labor, but we had packed some anyway. It was in a cooler in the car so after Michael got back I sent him out to get it.
Michael came back a little later, but the nurse wouldn’t bring Hudson in from his bath until they had gone over some procedures and such with us (hospital policy on him rooming in, who was allowed to transport him, etc.). I know they have to do that, but I was about to jump out of my skin to see my baby. They finally finished and brought him in and we were able to start our life as a little family of three.
Time is so strange when you’re in labor. I used to hear people say that they pushed for two hours and think “Oh man, I would die. That sounds so awful!”. Well, I pushed for eight but it wasn’t eight straight hours of excruciating pain (just about 20 minutes of that…), so it didn’t seem that terrible.
Trust me, it felt like a long time, but then at the same time, it went by much faster than I expected. 32 hours of labor is so long. I’ve had three friends recently who have been induced and all three of them had much quicker labors than me. So much for natural childbirth being faster since there are no drugs to slow things down! But I think the time passed much faster for me than for the people outside of the labor room. Several people mentioned how worried they were since my water had broken Wednesday and they still hadn’t heard anything on Thursday. I just had a weird, slow labor, that’s all!
I hope I haven’t scared you away from natural childbirth. I really think I had an unusual experience that is much worse than most people’s. Obviously I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’m pretty sure I’d still choose natural over medicated.
I’m praying that my next labor is much shorter though!
People have asked me if I got to have the birth I wanted. Well, yes and no. My ideal would have been to labor easily and quietly at home, wait until the contractions get more intense and then head to hospital, be ready to push when I get there, and push him out with little pain in a very short amount of time. Obviously that didn’t happen.
However, I was able to have a completely natural childbirth with no epidural. I only needed Pitocin for the last hour and a half of labor. I am not one bit disappointed in my birth, and I feel like it was a true natural, Bradley method birth.
Besides, at the end of the day we had a healthy baby, healthy momma, and that’s what matters.